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Christianity: A History January 29, 2009

Posted by Andy in Reflections on Ministry.
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LindisfarneThe current Channel Four series on Sunday evenings called Christianity: A History has included some interesting episodes so far. The latest was an overview of the expansion of Christianity in Britain over 1,500 years ago. The Roman Empire was crumbling. Ireland had never been part of the Roman Empire but under the leadership of St Patrick the Christian faith took on a different form. The programme detailed various aspects of the growth of celtic Christianity, its monasteries, its expansive missionary endeavours from places like Lindisfarne under the leadership of St Cuthbert, the conversion of King Oswald of Northumberland, and its conflict with the paganism of mainland Britain.


Firstborn of a new generation January 21, 2009

Posted by Andy in Reflections on Ministry.
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martinlutherking  barackobama                                            whalerider




Last night I led a session at church for our Tuesday Fellowship group and I showed excerpts from the Whale Rider film. It’s a heart warming story set in a New Zealand Maori village. Koro, the tribal chief, is desperately seeking a male heir to succeed him. The film starts with his twin grandchildren being born. His grandson dies at birth. He immediately rejects his granddaughter, Paikea, who he will continually vehemently oppose as a potential heir throughout the narrative. This would be breaking with considerable historic tradition. However, as the film progress, Koro fails to find a suitable male heir (despite his strict training regimen) and Paikea succeeds where the boys failed by managing to retrieve the reipeta (whale’s tooth) from the ocean. Koro comes to his senses and realises that his granddaughter deserves his forgiveness. The film ends with Paikea resurrecting not only the dying whale but also the community’s hopes for a new leader. She is ‘not scared to die’ and although she risks all by riding the whale she manages to regain her conciousness and lead the community into the future. She has shown them a new way to be human and become their representative.

I didn’t think of it at the time, but as I watched the US Presidential inauguration yesterday and also in the light of Monday being Martin Luther King Day, the Whale Rider film was a very aposite film to reflect on yesterday. The desire to go against all odds, the steady nerve to break with tradition and custom, the bold conviction to inaugurate fresh hope and vision. All of which resonates clearly with Christ’s ministry as he heralded the coming of God’s kingdom.

Francis of Assisi and stigmata January 16, 2009

Posted by Andy in Recent Sermons.
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francisofassisiFrancis of Assisi’s medieaval life of simplicity, prayerfulness, evangelism and love of nature was the embodiment of the new life he had encountered in Christ. He allegedly received the stigmata in 1224, two years prior to his death. He apparently tried to hide the marks but his friars could not help but notice his bleeding as they nursed him when he fell ill. How did he get them? Was it a physical reaction to an intense, ecstatic, psychological experience? Or did he inflict them upon himself not to deceive others but as a dramatic demonstration of imitating Christ? Ultimately, perhaps it is beyond the ability of science or history to determine but it does remind me of Paul’s words in Galatians 6:17 where the apostle says ‘I carry the stigmata of Jesus branded on my body’ (I’ll have to do some exegetical research to tease out the correct interpretation!)

In his meditative book on Francis, the late Brother Ramon includes the following prayer based on the story of the receiving of the stigmata:

Jesus of Calvary, I cannot begin to understand the mystery that lies at the heart of the cross, or the complete surrender of Brother Francis to your suffering love; but grant me to know in part what it means, and to take one simple step  nearer the cross today, so that your passion and glory may be manifested in my small life. Amen.

Oh that I had wings like a dove! January 8, 2009

Posted by Andy in Recent Sermons.
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Desert living

The new preaching series got underway on Sunday as we start to consider some of the past lives of Christians who have shaped our faith and give us the incentive to pursue living for God in our own times. These past saints cheer us on from their heavenly grandstand, according to the imagery of Hebrews 12:1-3.

First up: the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Communities of monks and nuns living in the Egyptian desert in the 4th & 5th centuries AD. Escaping the city life and the associated corruption and inadequacies of the church, they fled to the desert to seek greater lives of prayer, meditation, contemplation and stoic self-discipline.

Their lives were stripped almost as bare as the desert into which they moved. The soundless places only ever associated with death and burial for them became places of solitude where they grew in their love of God and neighbour.

Anthony of Egypt, born in Alexandria in c.AD250 isattributed as being the founding father of monasticism. He was compelled to enter into this form of living based on Matt 19:21 where Jesus says that perfection involves the selling of possessions and giving to the poor.

Que sera sera January 1, 2009

Posted by Andy in Family.
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Dad, Steve and I with the FA cup (replica!)

Boys will be boys

So, another year fades into the background and 2009 is unleashed upon us. Over the festive season it looks like wordpress.com have been getting in on the act of offering gifts and now kindly added a photo upload facility, which I hope to use a bit more frequently to spruce up this blog! If you’d like to read our family news blog then littlescotties.blogspot.com is the place to visit!

The inevitably busy Christmas was great fun and all our church services went well. The period from Boxing Day onwards was a lovely relaxing time with our families in Harrogate and then Bracknell. Shona and I went to the National Media Museum in Bradford – well worth a visit, free entrance to exhibitions, Blue Peter memories, National Press Association photos and archive material. As photo above shows, I also went with my dad and brother on a Wembley Stadium tour (a belated Christmas present from last year). We sported our Watford shirts and proudly lifted the (replica) FA Cup. The closest we’ll get to the real thing…

Now it’s back to the emails, meetings, and so forth, and the start of a new evening series at Hanbury Hill starting on Sunday evening: ‘Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses’. The objective being to delve into our Christian history and heritage and learn from many of those who have gone before us. First up will be the Desert Fathers & Mothers.